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Juveniles in Court
Delinquency Cases
Q: Has there been an increase in the number of delinquency cases ordered to formal probation or residential placement?
A: Nearly all the growth in the number of adjudicated delinquency cases in which the youth was placed on formal probation or ordered to a residential facility took place between 1985 and 1997.

Adjudicated delinquency cases by disposition, 1985-2020

Year Residential
placement
Probation Other sanction
1985 107,700 199,400 31,400
1986 113,100 204,800 35,000
1987 109,500 200,400 33,500
1988 110,200 199,800 37,500
1989 121,900 217,600 40,400
1990 124,000 225,100 39,700
1991 128,500 236,500 46,100
1992 132,500 253,100 48,500
1993 138,000 275,900 53,900
1994 149,100 299,000 59,600
1995 156,300 321,400 58,600
1996 168,200 356,100 62,700
1997 178,000 378,900 59,700
1998 180,000 376,200 56,300
1999 180,000 370,800 51,400
2000 178,800 381,300 46,500
2001 167,500 377,800 43,300
2002 165,000 371,500 51,600
2003 162,200 366,000 49,900
2004 154,700 362,200 50,100
2005 151,600 345,600 49,000
2006 147,800 343,200 42,300
2007 145,600 342,900 42,000
2008 138,900 339,600 45,400
2009 122,200 307,600 40,500
2010 112,900 278,200 36,600
2011 102,400 255,800 32,800
2012 89,200 225,100 30,600
2013 80,900 207,700 25,800
2014 73,300 195,300 24,100
2015 66,700 175,000 20,300
2016 63,900 159,900 21,100
2017 62,900 154,000 21,300
2018 58,200 142,400 18,800
2019 51,900 131,000 14,700
2020 35,900 88,700 9,500

Note: Cases are categorized according to their most severe disposition.

It is important to note that 2020 was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have impacted policies, procedures, and data collection activities regarding referrals to and processing of youth by juvenile courts. Additionally, stay-at-home orders and school closures likely impacted the volume and type of law-violating behavior by youth referred to juvenile court in 2020.

[ Graph version ]  [ CSV file ]

  • In dispositional hearings, juvenile court judges must determine the most appropriate sanction for delinquent youth. Disposition options include commitment to an institution or another residential facility; probation; or a variety of other dispositions, such as referral to an outside agency or treatment program, community service, fines, or restitution. Very often the court imposes some combination of these sanctions.
  • The number of adjudicated delinquency cases resulting in residential placement increased 65% between 1985 and 1997 and then fell 80% through 2020. In 2020, an estimated 35,900 adjudicated delinquency cases were ordered to residential placement 27% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.
  • The number of adjudicated delinquency cases resulting in formal probation nearly doubled between 1985 and 1997, then decreased 77% through 2020. In 2020, formal probation was the most restrictive disposition ordered in 88,700 delinquency cases 66% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.
  • The number of adjudicated delinquency cases receiving other court ordered sanctions nearly doubled between 1985 and 1997, and then decreased 84% by 2020. In 2020, other sanctions, such as community service and restitution, were imposed in 9,500 adjudicated delinquency cases 7% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/court/qa06501.asp?qaDate=2020. Released on January 10, 2023.

Adapted from Easy Access to Juvenile Court Statistics. Available on-line at: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezajcs/.

Data Source: National Juvenile Court Data Archive. National Center for Juvenile Justice. Pittsburgh, PA.

 

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